Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In response to an opinion about global warming and global conspiracy

Urgh. I can't tell if Greenwald is attempting farce or attempting to shove his face in his arse. (Face + Arse = Farce? No, too easy.)

If he is not trying to be an arse, then he does not make a good scientific argument. Where does any statement say that "Western" industrialization is the culprit of global warming? If he were to read the scientific literature, he would find that industrialization, primarily from the West (due, of course, to the much longer time frame of industrialization IN the "West") is pointed to as the culprit.

However, Mr Greenwald starts off by making the first wrong assumption: that all Lefties are Global Warming enthusiasts (and that a "Lefty" publication might print something that isn't from a "lefty"). The rest of his argument depends on this assumption. This is like saying all Jews are Zionists, all British have bad teeth, all Germans are Nazis, all Indians love curry, all Americans are Indian killers, all French are arrogant, etc. If I were to judge Mr. Greenwald's state of mind on anything alone, it must start at his first premise - which is as shallow as the connections I made in the previous sentence. Continuing on, the only Google mentions of the Dr. David Whitehouse who wrote the article, show him to be a climate change skeptic, presumably with a degree in astophysics (since the majority of his discussions of science over on the BBC pages deal with outer space and - interestingly - science fictiony type things, like teleportation). That a person with a science degree in the effects of physics OUTSIDE the purview of the Earth has any equivalent credential to state anything credible on the status of science looking at the effects of physics INSIDE the atmosphere, is like saying that Jerry Falwell is a good interpreter of the Torah (after all, Falwell's bible and the Jewish bible are based on the same thing, right?). These two reasons are why I don't hold Dr. Whitehouse scientific credentials as highly as Mr. Greenwald, but to continue to state that Dr. Whitehouse's time as the online science editor for the BBC somehow makes him more credible than Gore is also a stupid argument to make. Gore has a whole team of people working with and for him and is wrapped up in global warming science and education - trust me, I met the man, and the former Whitehouse (President's mansion on Pennsylvania Blvd this time, not some self-aggrandizing former editor for the BBC) science adviser who worked for him - and know first hand (as opposed to Mr. Greenwald's who-knows-how-many hand) how committed to obtaining more information he (Gore) is on this subject (global warming). So, to sum up this lengthy, rambling paragraph:
  1. Not all Lefties agree with the idea of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), or are anti-Western/US.
  2. AGW not caused by THE WEST, but by industrialization, which is primarily found (by weight of history) in the West. (Sorry, no evil anti-Western/corporatist conspiracy here, unless Mr. Greenwald is trying to tell us that industrialization didn't have a major history in the West!)
  3. Dr. Whitehouse is not an expert on atmospheric physics (for the basic physical science of AGW), economics, public health, ecology, biology, virology, or any other "ology" that might relate to impacts on the ground resulting from AGW. Dr. Whitehouse appears to be an ASTROphysicist.
  4. Mr. Gore deals every day with the issue of AGW, and if not "every day", then a damn sight more time than Dr. Whitehouse's "illustrious" career at the BBC allowed him to do.
But let me continue to the next paragraph. "For starters, the anti-Western trend in left wing thought is all-encompassing." What? I'm a "Lefty". Does that mean that I am "anti-Western"? Let Mr. Greenwald tell me to my face and we shall have to engage in a duel of honor! But seriously, this is characteristic of a starting sentence of a diatribe. What makes him think that anything he has to tell me after this point I won't take with such a large bucket-full of salt that I will find even the thought of digesting what he has written unpalatable? Admittedly, I am writing (in my reply to you) in a very sour tone, but I don't expect Mr Greenwald or anyone else to read this, nor am I trying and pick apart his argument to anyone else but you (or anyone else with an understanding of my own thought processes and appreciation of my sarcastic sensibilities who may be reading this over your shoulder). But if my mental digression was bad then what is this?:

"It's easy to point to the slave trade and colonial rule, and make a sound moral determination in the non-West's favor. Deeper digging produces some compelling counter-arguments, but if you're looking for a go-to stance then "the West is evil" is a lay-up. In regards to global warming, the logic proceeds as follows: atmospheric warming is caused by CO2 emissions; CO2 emissions are the result of industrialization; industry is synonymous with the West. Thus, global warming is caused by the West, (the U.S. in particular.)"

Mr. Greenwald now sound like a little Mr. Inhofe. In fact, in his next paragraph, he almost sounds like he's come up with a brilliant new formulation of the good Senator's statement of, "Global warming is the biggest hoax perpetrated on the American populace." Oooh, SIR!

Now, if Mr. Greenwald wanted to give me a scientific (or mathematical) discussion on how you can discern from an apparent 6-year trend (temps of 2001-2007) something that is somehow characteristic of a 30-year time frame (along which climate is supposed to be measured), then the point just prior to the paragraph above would have been the best place to catch me. Indeed, if he showed anything in his statement that would have shown me something other than data, it would have been good. However, he only later shows data (with no discussion). With no attribution. Data which has as much to do with a connection between CO2 emissions and AGW as the Pope does to the presence of heaven. Do you see what I'm getting at? Just by stating that Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven does not prove that there is a heaven, that there are keys, or that the Catholic Church is their keeper. Similarly, all the numbers show is that countries did not conform to Kyoto, and is really more an illustration of the lack of enforcement mechanisms in the Protocol than proof of a non-connection between CO2 and AGW. (That the US's emissions only increased slightly in comparison to Europe is something for which I can refer Mr. Greenwald to Mr. Peter Gleick at the Pacific Institute.) That Mr. Greenwald does nothing in discussing the major jumps in CO2 emission from China and India, or the major decreases in world forests - especially the tropical rainforests; the deforestation of the Amazon alone caused a major spike in Brazil's CO2 and CO emissions - since 1990 is strange (or maybe this doesn't fit his own world view).

In the end, Occam's Razor (i.e., the idea of parsimony) is something that I have to go back to. Is this all a major conspiracy forged by the UN (an organization which has proven itself to be incapable of finesse and unilateralism on anything other than recent anti-Americanism) and lefties (that Mr. Greenwald never really provides good definition for)? Or is this the cumulative impact of 6 billion people living today, and the several billion that came before us? Along this line, I have to go with the second option.

The first option shows a humanity about it that makes it tempting to believe. In this scenario, there is a conspiracy being carried out by a cabal of "them" against "us". In such a scenario, "they" are either so all-powerful that "they" can do anything they want; are all-knowing that "they" can act independently (but in complete harmony with each other), even appearing to be at cross-purposes; or are so well-entrenched into the system that no one can get rid of "them." These are all cornerstones of any good (or bad) conspiracy theory. However, conspiracy theories require so many contingencies that they fall apart. (Of course, that they do fall apart only goes to show that the conspiracy is really true!) Mr. Greenwald might as well have said, "The Jews did it!" After all, this is a tried-and-tested conspiracy theory that has shown to hold traction over centuries. (Maybe Jewcy is the wrong forum, though.)

The second option is less viscerally tempting because it is so vast and (strangely) inhuman. In this scenario, the cumulative impact of an unimaginable number of actions (greater than any human mind can conceive on his/her own) has an unintended impact on everything. This is something that many rational people don't want to hear. We think our actions (on the whole) rational. We like to think these things. We like to hear of studies that show that a group is smarter than an individual. The idea that billions of small (or large) actions can lead to a bad cumulative impact that is not seen immediately baffles the brain. However, we've seen it countless times in the past: acid rain, ozone hole, fisheries collapse, radiation poisoning, environmentally-caused cancer, altered hydrology due to land-use change, groundwater pumping, etc. The longer the natural world's response to a collective and cumulative action, the less likely we are to accepting a connection. We aren't hard-wired to think in these terms. We are more likely to think in conspiracies, as Mr. Greenwald apparently does.

One final note. With an MA in general psychology, I'm surprised that Mr. Greenwald has fallen prey to the conspiracy frame of mind, and apparently being unable to tell that he is. Of course, this might be the difference between obtaining an MS and an MA in that field.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Day of the Ninja

Thanks to Tom Cruise's film, The Last Samurai, and some online ninja jokesters, today is (among other things) Day of the Ninja!

Just be warned... (You never know where they strike, you see.)

Now don't you wish you weren't so happy to conform to pirate speech on Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day?

End-of-Prohibition Day

On this day in 1933, the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. For those of you who don't know (and don't want to read the whole Wikipedia page), the important part of that amendment was the following:

"The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed."

Ooh. Such a well-crafted sentence that leaves nothing to doubt. No wiggle-room. Of course, article 3 of the amendment required that a requisite number of states ratify the amendment within seven years. Surprisingly, the majority of states that ratified Amendment 18 also ended up ratifying Amendment 21. Only South Carolina stuck to its original pro-Prohibition vote by being the only state to reject the 21st Amendment in 1933. (Similarly, Connecticut and Rhode Island rejected the 18th Amendment while voting for the 21st.)

So, go out and enjoy the repeal of the 18th Amendment and the return to states the power to set alcohol production, sale, and consumption laws! (Responsibly, of course.)